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Jordan: King Abdullah II Announces Power-Sharing Reforms

Jordan King Power Sharing Reforms

JAMAL HALABY   10/26/11 01:37 PM ET   AP

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan's king said Wednesday he will give lawmakers a say in appointing the Cabinet, the latest reform aimed at heading off Arab Spring-style protests in the tiny, U.S.-allied nation.

Under the current system, King Abdullah II has sole power to appoint all Cabinet members. The change, starting next year, will allow the elected 120-seat parliament to choose a prime minister, who the king can either appoint or veto. If he vetoes, parliament will search for a consensus with the king on an alternative candidate, said the king's adviser Amjad Adaileh.

The king called the change part of a "comprehensive democratic transformation" and "political reform."

Jordan has weathered months of street protests calling for his powers to be curtailed. He is trying to appease activists by giving elected representatives a greater say in politics.

This year, Jordan changed 42 articles in the 60-year-old constitution, giving parliament a stronger role in decision-making. The changes stipulate that a Cabinet that dissolves parliament must also resign. The changes did away with the king's powers to summon parliament to convene or send the legislature into recess.

Parliament has already changed laws to allow protests and the formation of a teachers' union – previously banned because successive governments feared that a politicized syndicate could influence students. Last week, Abdullah replaced the widely-disliked prime minister, who was accused of curtailing reform, with a liberal judge who once served in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

On the same day he reshuffled Cabinet, the king appointed a new intelligence chief amid accusations that security forces were intimidating protesters and journalists.

Abdullah told lawmakers in an annual speech to parliament that the new arrangement will strengthen parliament's role in politics by "involving the elected lawmakers, who represent the aspirations of the people, in the consultative process leading to the designation of prime ministers."

The next legislature will also be elected under new laws, the king said.

The king, under pressure from protesters, has also promised to allow voters the right to eventually elect a prime minister who would then form a government. It is still unclear what the king's role would be in the formation of such a Cabinet.

Parliamentary elections are likely to be held as early as June, but the timetable for when people can vote on a prime minister is also remains unclear.

King Abdullah has insisted that it will take two to three years until voters can elect their prime minister, arguing that time is needed to amend laws and merge Jordan's 33 fragmented political parties into several core coalitions.

Officials have floated the idea that Jordan could eventually have two or three main parties, and the party with the majority of seats in parliament would then form a Cabinet.

The king said he wanted an independent local election commission to supervise the next round of parliamentary elections and a constitutional court to monitor the application of amended laws. He called on parliament to enact laws that protect free press and freedom of speech.

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Filed by Eline Gordts  |